A festive atmosphere can be created without rendering your home totally unrecognisable or obliterating the decorating scheme that you originally decided on. Moreover, it is possible to decorate your home in such a way that doesn't force your visitors to put on sunglasses the moment they step through the doorway. All it takes is a little planning.
In 2008, Chinese New Year will start on 7 February, so it is essential that you start early.
Not just a ritual, this is also a good time to weed out old or obsolete items, like that broken juicer or all the impulse buys you've brought home in the past 12 months. Set aside a few hours in your weekend to take care of that stack of accumulated magazines and newspapers that you have been ignoring, or those pesky home repairs that you have been putting off. These are minor repairs that can make the difference in creating a comfortable home.
Start early – at least one month early – so as to ensure enough time to complete all tasks. Old or broken furniture and appliances can be replaced; you could even re-paint the walls to make them look fresh and new. If necessary, indulge in minor (or major) spot of renovation to give a new lease of life to your home.
Decide on the types of new year decorations that are the most suitable for your home. This means that a home with a country or resort theme should not use large amounts of metallic accents, such as gold- or silver-coloured ornaments, which can look alien and shocking. For minimalist or futuristic theme home, excessive amounts of traditional decorations, such as paper cuttings or pieces of Chinese calligraphy will simply look out of place. A home with an Asian-inspired theme can accommodate large Chinese lanterns; a Victorian-inspired home cannot. Likewise, home with large pieces of furniture can end up looking cluttered when too many small ornaments are scattered around.
The colour scheme in your home requires thought too. Red is the colour of Chinese New Year, but using this colour well requires a bit of attention. If black predominates in your home, you can think big, for example, by adding floor-to-ceiling curtains in a deep red for a dramatic contrast. White and other neutral colours such as cream, beige or brown work best with small accents of red and gold so as not to overwhelm the room, while pastels require careful coordination to ensure that they do not clash. If your living room is painted pink, lavish use of red might cause your visitors' eyes to water. Light greens or blues, combined with fiery red so often used in Chinese New Year decorations, may result in a chaotic combination, and such homes should be decorated with care.
If you prefer to keep things simple, look for ways to incorporate Chinese New Year themes in subtle ways, for example, using glossy silks or rich brocades on the sofa cushions, or an embroidered table runner or tablecloth for your coffee table. Chinese calligraphy hangings, or even a large Chinese painting, can add a touch of culture as well.
Perhaps you can't help but want to deck your home entirely in bright, lucky colours, but don't want to risk turning it into a Chinese restaurant. Then go for accents of red rather than spreading the colour all around the place, and a dish of cookies or sweets on the table creates a homely atmosphere far more effectively than any plaques of prosperity and luck. For an extravagant yet restrained touch, hang Chinese lanterns in a corner (rather than in pairs outside your door) as a display of art.
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is traditionally a time when flowers, fruits and other ornamental plants are widely displayed. These forms of decorations are not only a welcome contrast to the constant use of metallic shades and plastics found in conventional decorations, some of them also have scents that can make a home feel more welcoming and warm.
Miniature orange trees or chili plants add a cheerful dash of colour; their presence also symbolises spring and prosperity. Fresh flowers fulfill the same function, only they are more colourful and therefore should be used with care to fit in with your colour scheme. Then there are specific festive plants, such as crisp, green bamboo, pussy willows, plum blossoms and more. Other natural produce can be used too – what is Chinese New Year without a small pile of mandarin oranges?
Homes also benefit from classy touches such as bonsai, which has the advantage of adding greenery to the home while creating a restful atmosphere – invaluable during this busy time! Those with a desire to retain the stylish feel of their minimalist-themed home can make a subtle, yet dramatic statement with an unadorned bunch of pussy willows, perhaps tall enough to reach the ceiling.